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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 29, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Bag tax: Saving the planet or harming the public?

Disposable bags have hidden costs

In response to Bruce Ramsey’s assertions [“Civil disagreement: Should Seattle tax disposable grocery bags?” seattletimes.com, Ed Cetera blog, July 23]: No, disposable bags aren’t free.

Plastic bags create a litter problem that the city has to spend tax dollars to fix. They also jam Seattle Public Utilities’ recycling equipment, which costs you as a ratepayer.

Moreover, we can only hazard an educated guess at the long-term environmental cost of the greenhouse-gas emissions created by producing paper and plastic bags.

Seattleites should support the voluntary fee on paper and plastic bags because it will benefit the environment and help reduce waste. I would think responsible Seattleites might also support Referendum 1 because it will save them money over the long term.

— Blair Anundson, Seattle

“Hurting the poor” line is no argument at all

I was incensed to see the full-page ad (shows you how much money they already have) paid for by the chemical industry urging Seattle citizens to vote against the plastic bag tax. It was a great relief a few pages later to see the thoughtful and coherent guest column by Kathy Fletcher and Denis Hayes urging us to pass the bag tax [“Vote to eliminate disposable grocery bags,” Opinion, July 28].

It’s astonishing there is even a question about this: It’s so obvious that using cloth bags benefits everyone except Exxon, Chevron, DuPont and the ilk. The opposition’s pathetic and transparent attempt to cite the poor as sufferers if this sensible idea becomes law is a curious attempt to find something — anything — to grab a vote. The poor worldwide, and ever since shopping began, have used cloth or string bags — as has everyone with any sense.

— Nancy Pennington, Seattle

Let’s take care of the needy before the environment

I am very proud of how green our city has become. At our house, we hardly use our garbage disposal, recycle our food waste, yard clippings, bottles, papers and plastic bags. We also garden organically. Our car always carries reusable grocery bags, and we both have packs and bags for unexpected purchases.

However, when I first heard about the drive for a bag fee my very words to my husband were, “This will kill the poor and homeless.” In our drive to be environmentally sensitive, we need to also step out of our own worlds and think about being sensitive to the unpredictable lives of the least among us.

Not everyone leads my privileged existence. We should take care of the planet but not forget to take care of the suffering people on it.

— Toni Cross, Seattle

Politicians, please stay out of my kitchen

I just completed one of life’s simple pleasures — reading The Seattle Times. It arrived, as it does every day, in a plastic bag!

If we eliminate the plastic bags, can we still expect a clean, dry Seattle Times on our doorstep every morning?

We still use our supermarket bags to line garbage containers (in your face, Kathy Fletcher) and dutifully recycle any of the remaining bags. If we eliminate the plastic bags we will be required to buy replacements.

Reducing the number of plastic bags is a noble goal, but we should reach that goal through education, not legislation. Mayor [Greg] Nickels, please stay out of our kitchen.

— Merle Hanley, Seattle

With education, increase recycling and responsible use

Oh my, even our progressive environmentalists can fall behind the times and technology. Kathy Fletcher and Denis Hayes are right about the need to protect our natural world, but they seem to be stuck in that stereotypical “man and greedy business are to blame for destroying Mother Earth — if only the two would go away” train of thought.

The Environmental Protection Agency tells us plastic bags are more environmentally friendly than paper bags when considering the methods and shipping required for their respective production and, in fact, plastic causes less air and water pollution and is a better method of preventing food-borne illness.

For the record, I am not a greedy industrialist. Perpetuating eternal crises is the mantra of extremist groups, but is anyone really against Puget Sound? For them, theirs is the only enlightened path, and there is no compromise. Man and profit are always evil.

Well, the reality is, humans and their need to exist and thrive will not go away. In order to keep balance, man has always developed technology to solve its problems. Fletcher and Hayes demand complete and irrevocable removal of plastic bags from Seattle but do not mention the successes other large cities have experienced in reducing and recycling plastic. Phoenix, Twin Cities and states like Illinois and California, for example, have programs that have dramatically reduced plastic use and enhanced recycling efforts. In six months alone, Phoenix has increased recycling by 20 percent.

The truth so often is in the middle. Plastics serve a vital role in our society, but approaching the issue through recycling, anti-littering campaigns and judicious use is the answer — not taxing plastic bags.

Supporting responsible programs trumps hysteria. Fletcher and Hayes should get on board.

— Mark L. Bowers, Issaquah

Reusable bags are so much simpler

Kathy Fletcher and Denis Hayes’ guest column was informative and useful, as it showed the inherent waste of these bags as a compelling reason not to use them.

I switched primarily for convenience, as it was becoming a colossal pain dealing with those bulging bags. Some random observations about plastic bags.

My reusable carryalls stay in my car after being emptied. They wipe clean if necessary. They are stackable and light, yet quite sturdy.

Mine were $1, purchased at a dollar store.

This has been my system for a few years. For a while, I expected the checkers and cashiers would resent having their “bag by the belly” routine disrupted, but the opposite has been the case. They still try to scan them and charge me if I’m not on top of it, but generally they welcome reusable bag use.

I think people are resistant to this change because they don’t see what’s in it for them. If some of the grocery or retail behemoths offered something like the blue plastic bags, they could easily see a decent profit by doubling dollar-store prices, if not tripling them.

This opinion is offered by a person who is lazy and not a shining example for the recycling effort. I use these bags because it is so much simpler.

— Regina Ambrose, Auburn

Instead of taxing plastic bags, reward reusable bag use

I disagree with Kathy Fletcher and Denis Hayes’ guest column. While their desire to see fewer plastic bags befoul the environment has merit, their way of going about it lacks as much.

Instead of charging each shopper 20 cents per time they get a plastic bag, why not incentivize them by giving a discount when they opt to reuse one?

The grocery store where I shop already gives shoppers a 3-cents-per-bag discount when they use a reusable bag. It’s not much, but it’s something. It helps me remember to use the totes.

I suspect our local politicians like the idea of the bag tax because it’s another way for them to get revenue out of an already beleaguered consumer. The last thing we need is to give our city bureaucracy more money to mismanage.

— Marc Melino, Seattle

Plastic bag irony on my doorstep

I am in total agreement with Kathy Fletcher and Denis Hayes’ guest column regarding the bag tax. However, I find it ironic that this morning’s Seattle Times came inside a plastic bag!

— Steve Cramer, Federal Way

Comments | More in Economy, homeless, Seattle, Taxes

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